Where I was…

I was in my car — my 1985 Chevrolet Chevette, “The Cherry Bomb.” I think it was about the time that I was turning onto Conneaut Avenue, close to the Bowling Green City Park. Denny Schaffer and Trisha Courtney were talking about it rather casually on “The Breakfast Club” (one of the few programs with a signal that was strong enough to be picked up by the Cherry Bomb’s primitive radio) — as I was driving back from a “Breakfast Club” of my own on the campus of Bowling Green State University. Apparently, there had been some freak accident with an airplane colliding with one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York — which was certainly an item of interest and more-than-viable fodder for banter on a morning talk show… But when I stepped out of the car, at the City Park, it didn’t seem like too big a deal…

For the next hour or so, I strolled around the park together with Jeffrey — a lively pre-law student with a penchant for animated conversation. It was a beautiful September morning — sunny and warm, with just the beginnings of autumn’s crispness in the air. So we walked and talked. Talked and walked. We prayed together for a couple of minutes, and then we climbed back into our cars — he in his trim Honda and me in my Cherry Bomb — to set out for the rest of the day. And when I turned the key in the ignition, reviving the radio as well as the engine, I was surprised to hear Denny Schaffer and Trisha Courtney still talking about the airplane crash in New York City. Their tone had become much more serious, and I was unsettled by the emerging gravity of the situation.

It took me about five minutes to drive down the length of Conneaut Avenue from the City Park to my house. But as soon as I got home, I turned on the television to see what was going on. And the television set didn’t get much rest over the next three or four days.

Angry black smoke was pouring out of both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. And as they replayed (and replayed and replayed) footage of the crashes which started to be referred to as “attacks” instead of “accidents,” as I heard more of the news about other plane crashes in Washington D.C. and in rural Pennsylvania, as I watched with millions of my countrymen as the towers crashed to the ground, it felt like life as we knew it had crashed too. The world suddenly became as black and as sinister as the smoke rising up from the New York skyline. Rumors circulated on the newscasts about planes headed for Cleveland, for Chicago — for seemingly every major metropolitan center across the continent. Someone on one of the local stations suggested that the nuclear power plant just east of Toledo could be a target. It was hysteria. Paranoia. Panic. I called my brother Jay, in downtown Chicago — fearful that he could be in a target zone. I called Marci, at work in the clinic in provincial Gibsonburg — which seemed like less of a target zone (although you never could tell, in those panicked hours). And I was adhered to the television. They just kept recycling the same news over and over, but I couldn’t not watch. It was my lifeline.

It’s interesting to remember what it felt like that day. To remember where I was. What I was doing. What I was thinking. Obviously, I’ve gained much perspective in the days since that fateful day… and I recognize our misunderstandings, our irrationalities, our failings, our fears in the heat of that moment. But it’s interesting to remember… and perhaps instructive.

So where were you five years ago — on September 11, 2001 — when you first got caught up in the chain of events surrounding the terrorist attacks in New York City?

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10 Responses to Where I was…

  1. Stef says:

    I was at work. Our Logistics Manager ran into the warehouse and told us to turn on a television. (I worked for an audio-visual company at the time, so we had plenty of TV monitors around) He said his wife just called and said a plane hit the World Trade Center.

    I can still see him coming into the warehouse. I was sitting at my desk, printing off a load sheet for an upcoming show. He walked around the corner “Hey, we gotta turn on a TV. My wife just called and said an airplane hit the World Trade Center.”

    We watched all of it. We watched the 2nd plane hit. We watched both towers collapse. And all the while, I think I was too shocked to think much of anything.

  2. Emily says:

    I was standing in the check-out line at the grocery store when I learned from the person bagging my groceries that a plane (the first one) had hit the World Trade Center. Man. I frantically grabbed my groceries and ran to my car so that I could get home and make sense of things.

    For the next couple of hours I, along with others who lived in our apartment complex, sat glued to the television watching the events unfold.

    Later on I ventured out onto our college campus and surprisingly found that people were still attending classes. Teachers and students were really into talking about the attacks. It was strangely comforting to do so.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It was a Tuesday, and Chris had band practice that night. It was Jackson’s third birthday, so because we couldn’t celebrate that night, we were about to leave for a birthday breakfast. We didn’t get any tv reception, and my sister knew it. Just before we were about to leave, she called me from the east coast to ask me if I was listening to the radio, did I know what had happened? We didn’t, but we were glued to NPR for days after that.

    Jackson turned 8 today. He asked me this past week why he heard people talk about “9/11”, he recognized that as his birthdate. I told him just the most basic part and I know we’ll have more conversations in the future. The anniversary of his birth is one of the best days of my life, but every year will also bring remembrance and sorrow for that other anniversary.


  4. Sander Chan says:

    Watching the telly.

  5. Eric Asp says:

    Isn’t it crazy how specific our memories can be about specific events like this? I always remember my parents’ generation talking about the day JFK was shot… and I guess the attacks on the WTC in NYC served as our generation’s equivalent.

  6. Jenni says:

    I was at the University of Michigan- it was my freshman year of college. I had only been in classes for a week. I had English class at 8am with a friend who was from NYC. After class I was sitting outside a dorm studying and all these students came out crying and trying to call people on their cell phones (there are a LOT of people from NYC at U of M). Then signs were everywhere saying classes are cancelled for the day.
    My friend and I went inside to see what was going on and immediately saw on the television what had happened.
    I spent the rest of the day with her watching TV.

    What got me was that night watching how others around the world were mourning. I still have the student paper from that day.

  7. Krista Davis says:

    I was sitting in the Bowling Green health center, where i was working for project EXCITE as a grad student. I remember my secretary mentioning something about a plane hitting some building, then sitting in a conference type room with about 5 other people watching the news… and being really confused.

    I didn’t understand what was going on and why the Americans were so upset about this plane accidentally hitting their building. That was until we watched the second plane hit the second building live. Then maybe i understood. It wasn’t an accident, and they people who hit the first building weren’t sorry they did it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The 2 historic days that stand out from my childhood are the day Ronald Reagan got shot and the Challenger Disaster.

    For 9-11, I was at home with my 1 year old. At the time we didn’t have a television. A neighbor told me that there was a problem in NY and I started listening to the radio. I didn’t see the images until later that evening when we borrowed a small television.

    J in VA

  9. leslie phillips says:

    I was touring in South-East India with a band on 9/11. I was on a train with no running water let alone radio or tv. I was totally oblivious to anything else happing in the world.

    After travelling for 17 hours the band arrived in Viskapatnam. Six white people, lots of band equipment and no idea what our contact looked like. I think there were probably 30 Indian men around us (in VERY close proximity) staring at us for about 30 minutes or so. When one of them ventured to ask where I was from I answered that I was originally from America and he went off on some tangent about the World Trade Towers in New York. He was talking fast with a think Indian accent and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, so I just smiled and nodded. It was until later when we were picked up from the train station that I began to understand. Then later that day i made my way to a small Internet “cafe” (a dingy room down the road that had three barly working computers with internet access). There I looked on all the news sites I could find and spent the next hour discovering what had really happend.

    Honestly, I don’t think it really hit me though until the one year anniverary when I was back in Amsterdam and watched all the footage on tv and saw things they way most people had seen it on 9/11 2001!

  10. Jay says:

    I took the “L” to work, and went in early to lift, as usual. After showering, I walked out and thought it was weird that the attendents behind the desk had a TV on and were watching it so intently. (At Moody, a glowing screen was almost always considered a thing of the devil. Not really…but seriously…)

    I walked across the parking lots and into my office. Radios were blaring in each cubicle. I was more confused, and didn’t realize until I sat down that a tragedy happened in NY (which was an hour ahead of us, being in the central time zone).

    Being in Chicago made things interesting. There was great concern the Hancock or the Sears Tower would be next. We were all sent home in the late morning, in case something should happen. The “L” was ghostly and eerily empty on the way home, in great contrast to the rush hour crowd of earlier in the morning.

    I watched the rest. Journaled. Cried. I couldn’t tell why. Intense.

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